Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When We Were Very Young

I am now going to indulge in one of my all time favorite topics. If you are like minded you might hopefully find this post not only interesting but informative. It concerns books. More specifically, children's books and when and what you should read to children.
I started reading to my son when he was two months old. First I started with picture books. Illustrated books with stark contrast are your best bet. Tana Hoban black and white books are wonderful. I also showed him pictures of paintings by Edouard Manet because a lot of his paintings depict a single figure sharply outlined, usually in black. I joined the Dr. Suess book club and two books in particular were his favorites: "The Foot Book" and the "ABC book". Derek was also responsive to nursery rhymes. Yes, even at two months old Derek showed interest (or a lack thereof depending on what I was reading to him) in books. He would focus on the pictures as I read to them when he was interested and he would start looking around the room when he got tired or wasn't interested in what I was reading. I accordingly found out that he could pay attention to someone showing him pictures for up to forty-five minutes and that he had particular books that he enjoyed looking at. Let me point out that other than the short rhymes I was not reading stories to Derek but labeling the objects in the pictures. Another similar activity to develop your child's vocabulary is to take your baby around the room and pick up objects and label them. (“This is a cup, this is a spoon, this is a teddy bear et al.”)
By the time he was a year old, we would start the day with me reading to Derek for about forty-five minutes and then he was content to play by himself for quite a while and I could get things done. That's a word to the wise: put your children first. Play with them; read to them; give them attention first thing you do in the day and you'll find they will not be whining for your attention the rest of the day but be content to play by themselves for a good while. I was blessed to be able to stay home with Derek the first couple of years of his life. The dishes and housework could wait (they weren't going anywhere, it was all there waiting for me when I got to them) but I found Derek never whined or demanded my attention because he got it without having to ask for it. Because he had that security he was willing to play by himself for a long time before needing me again.
Because I started reading to Derek at such a young age he developed quite an attention span. When he was seventeen months old I started teaching at a preschool half days. We were living with my parents at the time so I would stay up late reading to him so he would sleep late while I was at work. By the time he got up it was only a couple of hours before I got home so most of his waking hours were with me.(I was sleep deprived but it was worth it.) In the evenings, I would sit on the floor and he would come towards me walking backward until he plopped his diapered bottom on to my lap. We loved to look at pictures of paintings by Mary Cassatt because so many of them portrayed a woman holding a young child in her lap. We continued to read all the Dr. Suess books and Mother Goose's nursery rhymes.
There are so many excellent books for preschoolers that I will post all the books I read to my son tomorrow. Generally, they need to have simple pictures, not a lot of detail and very simple sentences that briefly describe the illustration or photo on the page. At this point you want books that clearly point out concepts such as prepositional relationships, colors, days of the week etc... Young children are responsive to rhymes and chants. I found that most nursery rhymes were originally songs so when I knew the melody I would sing the rhyme. Another thought: my son liked me reading him books in Spanish and French- he especially liked French and preschool is the best time to get your child language CD's with books. They still need to be age appropriate and of the same content I have just described for books in English. My son loved Teddy Berlitz. It was a French language tape with a book and we “went to school” with Teddy, “played on the playground”, “visited friends” and learned all sorts of vocabulary.
Well, that's all for today. I hope this was interesting and helpful for those who want to read and develop the intellectual potential of the children.

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